I live and work in the UK and my training is in Computer Science and Mathematics. I defended my PhD thesis eight years ago and since then gained work as an engineer, then a Post-doc Research Assistant, then a Teacher, and now a Research Associate. Is it fine for me to apply for another post-doc research assistant position, or is that not the done thing? I ask because in job progression terms the job title may seem to some University employers like "going backwards". I'm slightly bohemian when it comes to research positions - I'm not really concerned about fluctuations in pay, but rather whether the research is interesting.

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    You may want to clarify what country you are in, and what field. I just don't understand the context of those position names. "Post-doctoral researcher" is not usually a job title; in fact, the usual official title for a research post-doc is "research associate."
    – Buzz
    Jun 25, 2015 at 11:27
  • I've updated the question, so hopefully it's clearer now.
    – user30577
    Jun 25, 2015 at 11:31
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    You need to read the job postings carefully. In many fields, it is not possible to get a postdoc if it is more than a certain number of years (rarely more than 5) since you obtained your PhD (this has at least been the case for all the postings I have seen in math). Jun 25, 2015 at 12:02
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    @Buzz, Postdoctoral Researcher and Research Associate are definitely distinct titles at UT Austin.
    – Bill Barth
    Jun 25, 2015 at 12:11

1 Answer 1


There's no prohibition in most job postings against people like you applying for postdoc positions. In many cases, it will be rare, though, that someone would be selected who is 8 years past their PhD simply because most people recognize that postdoc positions are supposed to be training positions for people on their way to faculty jobs. That doesn't seem to be your trajectory, and so departments would probably pass you over. As they are training positions, postdoc positions are typically also strictly limited to 3 years which may or may not interest you.

The situation may be different if a postdoc position is paid for from grant money. In that case, the principal investigator may decide that to heck with training, I need to get this work done and this is the right person for it.

I don't think that you're doing yourself a disfavor if you apply. If it's a small enough community where people talk about each other, you may start to acquire a reputation as a bohemian without a clear career trajectory, but you already know that and so no harm done.

  • Thanks for the answer. All my research has involved mathematics, but mathematics has not been the main department involved. However, I now know it is on mathematics I want to focus so I would like to get a position within a maths department and stick to it. I don't think this is impossible if only I can get my foot in the door so to speak.
    – user30577
    Jun 25, 2015 at 14:42
  • The claim that there is no prohibition is directly counter to what I have seen in most job postings. They almost always include a maximal "PhD age". Jun 25, 2015 at 15:13

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